By Titi Adanne Owoyemi
I am Stephen Adenika, an entrepreneur and current CEO of Apfatrade Limited – a company which specializes in agriculture. Separately I also work in Real Estate.
I left Nigeria in 2007 and this was simply for academic pursuits.
I attended the European University of Lefke, Northern Cyprus, studying Business Management.
To be sincere I ran to that department because back in school, at secondary level I was a science student and I always thought I would be an engineer. I was not good at Mathematics.
It’s a beautiful island and a good place to live but there were some challenges. For instance, as a student you don’t really have the opportunity to work and things were particularly hard for me at the time, due to the fact that my parents had financial issues which led me to spend much longer than I should have as a result of frozen semesters/ my inability to pay fees.
My story is a bit challenging as I said earlier. After my B.Sc, I was not exactly sure of my next steps. I did not plan to return to Nigeria immediately but I also knew I had to leave Cyprus for greener pastures. Where to? That was the problem. Luckily for me, I had begun some entrepreneurial pursuits while at school and that formed the basis for my coming home. I decided to come back home and invest the little I had.
I believe that time is my most valuable asset and so, I went straight into business. I started doing the background research and checks and I started the incorporation process for my company.
The name of the company is Apfatrade limited and we are basically into agriculture. We own an e-commerce platform known as www.apfatrade.com, which is one aspect of our services. It is essentially a platform for agricultural producers, sellers, importers and exporters. They put up their products, meet sellers and buyers and also interact there. We are also into physical farming, and we currently operate a fish farm and a poultry project too.
In Lagos and Ogun State.
There have been lots of challenges. In Nigeria, it can be quite difficult when you do not really have the financial backup. The mentality down here is so different and at first when we started with just the e-marketplace, it was well received but it did not go as planned. People did not really understand the concept that much so I had to re-invent the platform and introduce the visible farm. Undoubtedly, the government is beginning to take more of an active role to support the growing agriculture industry. There are a lot of grants available. However, it’s quite difficult to access them.
Yes it is the situation and the celebrity endorsements that make the sector seem rightfully appealing. Regarding the grants, it is indeed very difficult. I have undergone research, tried to make contacts, and explored all avenues to no avail. Some banks are giving money to loan out to agricultural entrepreneurs, but you find out the basic requirements set out by the government is not what the banks are actually using. So what you just do as an entrepreneur is keep going, no matter what. Nothing is going to stop you from doing what you have at heart, not even the government. Personally, I have turned to friends and family who believe in my idea, and we make it happen. Human Capital has basically been what has seen me through.
The reason is not so far-fetched. I, like many others, know that my country and my continent are blessed with abundant arable land as well as good resources. Food is life, agriculture is life. So when I conducted my research, I found out that the only business that can survive anytime, in any situation is agriculture. When there is a downturn in the economy, every other business may close down but people will always eat. There is nothing that affects agriculture and the competition is healthy. Looking at Africa and Nigeria with all the resources, we have a competitive advantage over the western world when it comes to agriculture and so, I decided to take the plunge.
Yes I am. That’s a huge part of what we do and what we plan to expand on.
I don’t regret moving back at all. The positive is that I have been able to see my country from a different light. I have been able to see so many opportunities in this land and I have been able to grow myself to fit into the system again.
It started when I moved back to Nigeria. I actually met a man who is my mentor. He is a visionary and he empowers the youth. He came up with a summit/conference last year titled for young entrepreneurs and I participated and learnt a lot from it. There were featured experts from the U.S and the UK whom I was lucky to interact with and pitch my ideas to and that was how my interest in real estate developed and was nurtured. Our real-estate service is unique to this market: It is a long-term payment system in which you can rent to own. It is not a mortgage, we would be your bank. You don’t have to put down a deposit, we work in plan with your income, which we call the affordable housing scheme.
I will tell you that the things were quite challenging e.g. the Lagos traffic, irregular power supply etc. So many things, but when you know what you are expecting, you plan ahead. You have to set your targets and objectives right. I knew what I was getting into, I knew what I wanted, and so these things were not stumbling blocks to me. My target was mainly for my business to grow and succeed and so, I was not carried away or overwhelmed by those challenges, because I knew this is Nigeria and I had to get down to business.
I hope to be a household name when it comes to Agriculture in Africa and with the team I have (young minds with great prospects), I know we are ready for the journey. Yes, it is challenging but thankfully, Nigeria has woken up. The sector itself is going places and Apfatrade will also go to places too.
The first thing I will say is that, whatever idea you have, things might not go as planned. Know that when you move back to Nigeria, you don’t only need ideas or capital; you need a strong resolve, a good team, and then you can survive in Nigeria.
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